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College Staple Upgrade: Macaroni and Cheese

Updated on September 23, 2012

It's Cheesy and it's Cheap

When asking anyone to describe boxed macaroni and cheese, "nutritious" and "healthy" are some words that don't come to mind. However, with the price of this product being under a dollar for most generic brands, and the cook time of this product being under 10 minutes, it is one of the top staples found among college students. It is also a favorite among busy families with busy children; at least, I can recall eating a lot of it as a child.

Here are some easy ways to glam the bland:

1. Macaroni and Peas

Adding peas to macaroni and cheese is an easy way to add nutritional value without sacrificing taste. Peas are high in fiber, as well as vitamin A and vitamin C. The peas are small enough, and the cheese is globby enough to completely cover up the taste of "vegetable ick." I like to use frozen peas, because these aren't as mushy as the canned variety, and because they are easy to 'cook' with the macaroni. Towards the end of boiling the noodles, ad a 1/2 cup of frozen peas and let them simmer for about one minute. Then drain, and add cheese, milk, and butter as directed.

2. Tuna and Cheese

Adding a can of tuna fish is about the easiest thing you can do to a box of macaroni. Just open and drain the tuna, then mix it in along with the milk, butter, and cheese powder. Tuna is rich in protein, along with iron and saturated fat. Canned tuna also comes cheap; much cheaper than other meats that you may be skipping to save time and money. Don't be afraid to add other canned meats, such as chicken, too!

3. Macaroni and Cheeseburger

Fry up some ground beef (or turkey) in a skillet while you are cooking your noodles. Add the hamburger to the macaroni, and serve with hot sauce; compares well in taste to a cheeseburger! Ground beef is chop-full of protein, and for a leaner option, use ground turkey.

4. Garlic and Ham

Chop up some deli-sliced ham and garlic, then sauté that in olive oil while the macaroni is boiling. The concoction resembles bacon bits, but has a much less salty taste. This is a tasty way to add protein, as well a unique flavor, to a boring box of macaroni and cheese. In a hurry? Use garlic powder, instead. Goes excellent with chopped fresh parsley, too!

A good, non-stick sauté pan allows you to fry with less butter, and has a shorter cleanup time.
A good, non-stick sauté pan allows you to fry with less butter, and has a shorter cleanup time. | Source

5. Hot Dogs

This is very easy to do, as hot dogs come pre-cooked. There are two ways to do this, actually:

1. Chop up the hot dogs and add them to the boiling noodles. Hot dogs are often cooked in boiling water, as it is; so this is an easy corner-cutter if time is on your mind. I recommend doing this with beef hot dogs, as they are generally more flavorful than turkey or chicken dogs.

2. Chop up the hot dogs, and sauté them in the butter that you would usually add to the macaroni. After draining the noodles, add the butter and the hot dogs to the pan, then sauté for about 2 minutes (until golden brown). Then, add the noodles, milk, and cheese powder. This is a good method for chicken, turkey or tofu dogs. The butter adds more flavor to them. Also; this method is friendly to adding garlic and other spices during the sautéing process.

Get Creative!

No matter what your plans are with your boxed macaroni dinner, I encourage you to be creative! If you can think of something that tastes good with cheese on it, chances are, macaroni and cheese would taste good with that something in it.


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